The third episode of Disney’s Obi-Wan Kenobi saw the terrifying introduction of Darth Vader. As Obi-Wan’s first look at the evil manipulation of his old padawan, Anakin Skywalker, the episode was a fantastic look at how terrifying the iconic villain could be.
One of the most intimidating aspects of the Star Wars villain has always been his deep, imposing voice by the iconic James Earl Jones. However, with Jones retired, many were worried that we would never get Vader’s voice again, but Disney has found a way.
Did Disney use an AI Darth Vader voice?
After Episode 3 of Obi-Wan Kenobi released, fans were excited to see that James Earl Jones was back as Darth Vader. After all, it sounded like Jones and the credits proudly attributed the voice to Jones. However, that’s not quite right.
In fact, Jones’ performance in Obi-Wan Kenobi is all AI generated. After the episode released, fans noticed that Vader’s voice was perfect, a stunning reversion back to Empire’s clarity compared to, say, Rogue One.
Hidden in the credits, near the end, Obi -Wan Kenobi credits AI deepfake company Respeacher for voice conversion therapy. This means that someone’s voice was converted using AI, and seeing as Vader now sounds around 40 years younger, it’s most likely him.
This isn’t the first time Disney has used a deepfake voice for Star Wars. In fact, Luke Skywalker’s appearances in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett all convert Mark Hamil’s voice to a younger version of himself.
How have they done this?
AI deepfake voices are becoming more commonplace nowadays. In entertainment, the technology was recently used for actor Val Kilmer to appear in Top Gun: Maverick after cancer stole his voice. In more dystopian scenarios, Tomy is releasing a smart speaker that clones parents’ voices to read bedtime stories in their stead.
In order to create a decent voice clone, the voice actor only needs to read a 15-minute script. However, for those who are unable to speak, there are ways of using old audio footage to create realistic deepfakes.
For James Earl Jones, this was likely easier than most. With the iconic voice actor appearing in decades of Star Wars media as well as having an extensive audiobook career — including narration of the entire Bible — he’s literally the perfect candidate.
While a Darth Vader soundalike would’ve been fine for Obi-Wan, it was nice to hear James Earl Jones’ voice again. However, with Jones at 91 years old, how long is Disney allowed to use this AI voice for?